UPDATE 2:25 PM: All's well that ends well. City Paper reporter Dan Singer has just reported that Rusty has been found, safe and sound, and is being transported back to the zoo in a crate.
Captured and in a crate. Damn autocorrect...— Dan Singer (@Dan__Singer) June 24, 2013
UPDATE 2:00 PM: We may have spoken too soon! This person claims to have just spotted Rusty roaming around an apartment complex not far from the National Zoo. Stay tuned!
So the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is reporting that its male red panda, "Rusty," has gone missing from his enclosure. Twitter has since reliably gone nuts over the idea that Rusty, who arrived in D.C. from the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska earlier this year, may be hanging out somewhere in the city, just waiting for someone to catch a glimpse of his thick reddish fur and adorably long whiskers. There are a number of ways this rare zoo animal escape story could end, but sadly none of them are likely to involve any kind of meet-cute between Rusty and the citizens of the District of Columbia.
Reason #1: Red pandas aren't very adventurous
Even though red pandas have more in common physically with raccoons or foxes than with actual pandas, turns out they aren't super interested in the urban environment. It's much more likely that Rusty is still in or near the zoo, napping in a tree:
Red pandas are arboreal, territorial animals, so it would be unusual for Rusty to wander far from his home range, in his case his exhibit.— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 24, 2013
Reason #2: Red pandas don't do much during the day, especially when it's hot out
It's approaching 90 degrees here in Washington today. I don't even want to be outside doing any kind of physical activity, let alone this little fuzzball:
Red pandas typically spend the warm daytime hours resting, so it’s likely Rusty is somewhere in or near the Zoo hiding in a tree.— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 24, 2013
Reason #3: It's possible he was stolen
Even the Zoo has had to admit that if it turns out Rusty isn't just hiding nearby, he could have been taken by some sinister animal thief. Presumably security cameras will be able to help answer that mystery, but if Rusty has made it far away from the Zoo by now, he would had to have had help.
Reason #4: He could also be sick
Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson tells Washington City Paper that Rusty may have run off because he's not feeling well, in which case he's even more likely to just be chilling out somewhere nearby, waiting to be found.